A new club on campus aims to help students jump-start their own startups.
Texas Convergent, which started this semester, will teach students about startups and technology while also helping them develop tech prototypes.
The club has general meetings every week, during which the officers give lectures on various startup techniques, such as efficient development, and technologies, such as virtual reality and machine learning.
“It’s about building the students, making them powerhouses in technology before they’re even out of college,” said Arjo Mozumder, senior finance major and co-founder of Convergent. “It gives them a huge advantage over basically anyone who doesn’t do that.”
Members can also apply to be part of an incubator hosted by Convergent, which helps startups reach a prototype in eight weeks. After members submit their proposals online, officers will select eight ideas to be presented at a monthly pitch meeting. From there, one or two of those ideas will be chosen for the incubator. Mozumder said Convergent would like to have about four projects in the incubator at a given time and that the first group will be selected in three weeks.
“One very interesting proposal that we’ve received is a virtual reality education tool,” Mozumder said. “For example, underclassmen could experience engineering ‘externships’ and virtually visit oil rigs. Engineering is a more visual field, so technology like that would make learning more tangible.”
Once a project enters the incubator, four of Convergent’s officers will serve as product manager, architect, business analyst and tech analyst on the project. Mozumder said this is like bringing on a team of consultants.
Dilan Hira, finance and computer science junior and co-founder of Convergent, said the members who want to work on projects but aren’t accepted to the incubator can still get involved through Convergent’s open-source initiative.
“The purpose of the open-source division will be to build UT and work on projects that help the Austin community,” Hira said. “So, we’ll be taking projects from charities, for example. We’re working on an application that anyone can use (to submit project ideas).”
Mozumder and Hira first formed the idea for Convergent last summer, after they attended a summit in New York City for student leaders. They said other students at the summit reported better startup collaboration at their schools.
“Other universities already had these kinds of organizations,” Hira said. “We realized we had no interdisciplinary collaboration here. There was a gap at UT, and we wanted to fill that gap.”
However, Mozumder said that getting the various UT departments on board was difficult. He said McCombs doesn’t affiliate with a student organization unless 60 percent of its members are business majors. As an interdisciplinary organization, Convergent has a broad student base, and the department would not let them market inside the building at all.
“The departments would tell us they had tried to work together, but it didn’t sound like they tried that hard,” Mozumder said. “One thing about academia is that people are very focused on their own fields, and the forces at work are not extremely geared toward working with another department. We don’t believe that should be the case.”
Mozumder said that despite the difficulty in marketing, Convergent received 200 sign ups in its first week. He said that the organization needs to build a dedicated membership base from that group, and if its success continues, it could eventually expand beyond UT.
“We aren’t just trying to build a student organization,” Mozumder said. “We’re trying to build this into something that can scale and service a pretty wide audience. It would be like a gateway to a lot of innovation and untapped talent that can now come together and put out some really interesting things.”